The mysterious group that over the past nine months has leaked millions of dollars’ worth of advanced hacking tools developed by the National Security Agency said Tuesday it will release a new batch of tools to individuals who pay a $21,000 subscription fee. The plans, announced in a cryptographically signed post published Tuesday morning, are generating an intense moral dilemma for security professionals around the world.
On the one hand, the Shadow Brokers, as the person or group calls itself, has in the past released potent hacking tools into the wild, including two that were used to deliver the WCry ransomware worm that infected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. If the group releases similarly catastrophic exploits for Windows 10 or mainstream browsers, security professionals are arguably obligated to have access to them as soon as possible to ensure patches and exploit signatures are in place to prevent similar outbreaks. On the other hand, there’s something highly unsavory and arguably unethical about whitehats paying blackhats with a track record as dark as that of the Shadow Brokers.
“It certainly creates a moral issue for me,” Matthew Hickey, cofounder of security firm Hacker House, told Ars. “Endorsing criminal conduct by paying would be the wrong message to send. Equally, I think $21k is a small price to pay to avoid another WannaCry situation, and I am sure many of its victims would agree with that sentiment.”